Resistance Studies Network

Supporting critical studies on resistance, organised by scholars at Gothenburg, Sussex & UMass Universities

Category: Media (page 1 of 6)

SSU professor: Egypt revolt not spontaneous

By JEREMY HAY
THE PRESS DEMOCRAT

Cynthia Boaz

Cynthia Boaz

Observers worldwide were captivated in February as millions of Egyptians overthrew President Hosni Mubarek, who has been in power since 1981. Many also described it as spontaneous.

It wasn’t, said Cynthia Boaz, a political scientist at Sonoma State University.

She met with some of the students who became its leaders in 2008, at a workshop co-organized by the Washington-based nonprofit where she is a paid consultant, the International Center on Nonviolent Conflict.

They discussed the lessons and methods of nonviolent mass civil resistance, and the skills it requires.

Boaz remains in contact with them and said that what is now known as the January 25 Movement, while sparked by a similar revolt in Tunisia, was anything but impromptu.

“I didn’t know they were planning … to start on Jan. 25,” she said, “but I knew the movement had planned for a major action. It’s an organized, planned, disciplined movement.”

Despite the scattered violence that continues, the revolution was overwhelmingly peaceful, waged not with weapons but with voices and placards and mass gatherings.

Boaz, 40, is an expert in nonviolent struggle who consults with educators, activists and students from countries ranging from Spain to Iran. She said toppling repressive regimes is a milestone in the capacity of organized civil resistance movements.

“What happened in Egypt represents a systemwide demand for a new alternative,” she said. “It’s not just about removing the old system from power.

“It was important to get something new for Egyptians, and that really is about democracy.”

Some of the effects are already evident in the largely peaceful protests happening across the Middle East in countries from Bahrain to Yemen.

“It isn’t like these movements have emerged overnight. They’ve just been waiting for an opportunity,” Boaz said.

Libya is an exception because “it’s not organized, there’s not a coherent, unified message,” she said. “It’s not disciplined, and it’s not non-violent.”

Egyptian activists worked for years to identify and neutralize the sources of power in the nation of 83 million. Their effort extended to having coffee with members of the Army.

“It’s a very nuanced divide and conquer strategy,” Boaz said. “You genuinely build real relationships with people, and you begin to help them question the legitimacy of the ruler and the system they’re upholding.”

—–O—–

With the events in the Middle East, Cynthia Boaz is in demand. Before flying to Chile Friday to meet with Latin American diplomats, she talked with The Press Democrat about Egypt’s revolution.

Q: What took place in Egypt has variously been termed a revolt, an uprising, a revolution. Which would you use?

A: Revolution. When power shifted from the regime to the people, that’s what made it a “revolution.”

Q: The revolution is often described as a spontaneous event ignited by the events in Tunisia. To what degree was it organized and why does it matter?

A: This question represents a common and unfortunate misconception about nonviolent action, which is that when you see it, it’s ad-hoc, it’s spontaneous; people just decide to show up in the city square and protest.

But that takes away credit from the activists. When nonviolence succeeds … it’s planned, organized and disciplined.

Q: But doesn’t the suddenness of these events, and how they took place almost simultaneously in these countries, signify a degree of spontaneity?

A: The disaffection and frustration that people feel is long term, so in many of these cases there will be a spark that ignites a population to action.

But that doesn’t mean it’s spontaneous. It means that there may be a movement waiting for a strategic moment in time.

Q: Is it significant that the Egyptian revolution was largely nonviolent?

A: What’s won through violence has to be sustained through violence, so the only truly legitimate way to create democracy is through a bottom-up, nonviolent process.

Also, the long-term consequences of a nonviolent victory in Egypt are that it really increases the credibility of nonviolence.

Young people who are natural bases of recruitment by terrorist organizations are now seeing another option for pushing their grievances — nonviolence.

Q: Regarding legitimacy, what about the American Revolution?

A: Mass non-violent action is relatively new, since the beginning of the 20th Century. It was really perfected by Ghandi …and (the Egyptians) were also looking at Eastern Europe and what happened there in Serbia and Ukraine.

Q: Of the students you know, are any members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which is expected to play a role in Egypt’s next election?

A: No. In fact, they are very clear that the movement’s goals and objectives are secular.

See the debate following the publication of this text and the corrections made by Cynthia Boaz at the bottom of this article

Bianca Jagger: We Must Declare a Non-Violent Revolution

From Huffington Post

I am calling for a non-violent revolution. A call to arms, without weapons.

On Tuesday the 8th of March, I joined Annie Lennox, Cheri Lunghi, Jude Kelly, Natasha Walter and hundreds of women on a march along London’s Southbank to celebrate 100 years of International Women’s Day (IWD).

It was encouraging to see so many women come together, but we should have been thousands, hundreds of thousands, millions perhaps? The first march in 1911 saw over a million women and men campaign to end discrimination against women and to demand equal rights.

Are we so complacent that we feel we do not need to demand gender equality? Many women are convinced there is equality between men and women. The fact however is that the US has never had a female president and, in the UK there has been just one female prime minister out of 52 male leaders. Shouldn’t this be a wake up call to all those who think we have achieved gender equality?

It is true that much progress has been made since the original march for IWD, and women are excelling in many fields. We may have different lives to those of our grandmothers and even our mothers but gender equality has far from been achieved.

Non-Violent Revolutions

In recent months we have seen women at the forefront of revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt, and Libya. Asmaa Mahfouz, a 25-year-old Egyptian woman has been credited by some as sparking the revolution in Egypt when she posted a YouTube video calling for people to join her in Tahrir Square in a fight for democracy. Of the hundreds of thousands of people who joined Asmaa Mahfouz there was as many women as men. This is a pivotal time in history for the Middle East, and women are playing a significant role in its progression towards democracy and freedom.

After such progress, it was shocking to see this week, a peaceful march led by women in Tahrir square to mark International Women’s Day met with aggression and sexual harassment from a gang of over 200 men.

In many countries around the world women have to physically fight for their voices to be heard. We in the west are lucky that we have a voice, but it must come with an obligation to fight for those women who don’t.

As we see women around the world risk their lives to fight for fairness and freedom, we should be inspired to stand up for our rights, our right to be equal; a right which was passed in 1948, under the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and is yet to be fully achieved.

In response to those who deny the existence of gender discrimination I let the statistics speak for themselves.

Gender Inequality

Women now carry out 60% of the world’s work and produce 50% of the world’s food but only earn 10% of the world’s income and only own 1% of its property. According the UN women make up 70% of the worlds poorest. Two thirds of the 774 million illiterate adults worldwide are women. This is because 70 million girls each year are denied the right to the most basic education.

Women around the world face severe restrictions in freedom and in some cases are condemned to death for allegedly breaking bias moral and religious codes, enforced by men.

Death Penalty

In recent years many cases of gender discrimination, gender related violence and honor killings have been brought to public attention. Some of the most egregious cases I have come across are; Mosammet Hena a 14-year-old girl from Bangladesh, who was allegedly raped and was whipped to death for crimes against honour.

The disturbing case of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, a 43-year-old mother of two, who was sentenced to death by stoning in Iran for adultery and murder, crimes she has repeatedly denied. Death by stoning is a mandatory sentence for “adultery while married” in Iran. After intense public outcry and campaigning by the international community, human rights organizations including my own The Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation, the Iranian authorities have since announced that her death sentence has been “suspended”. At present, the outcome of her case remains unclear.

Honor Killing

Honor killings are increasing in the western world, the recent cases of the television executive Muzzammil Hassan who was found guilty of beheading his wife in a suspected honor crime and the Iraqi father, found guilty of running over his 20-year-old daughter in a Arizona car park have shocked America. In 2009 police recorded over 250 incidents of “honor”-based violence in London alone, according to the Guardian.

Female Genital Mutilation and AIDS

Female genital mutilation and AIDS are another threat to women around the world. Action Aid estimates that 75% of all young people in Sub-Saharan Africa with AIDS or HIV are women. 92 million women and girls around the world are believed to have undergone female genital mutilation.

Rape as Weapon of War

Rape has long been used a weapon of war, during the 1994 Rwandan genocide, it is estimated between 250,000-500,000 women were raped. UN Special Reporter Rene Degnu-Segui stated, “rape was the rule, it’s absence the exception”. In 1993 I traveled with United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) personnel through Bosnia and Croatia on a fact finding mission to document the mass rape of women, I had been asked to testify before the Helsinki Commission in the US Congress. I listened to hundreds of shocking testimonies of women, who had been brutally raped. It is estimated that during the Bosnian war up to 50,000 women were systematically raped.

Although the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia issued arrest warrants based on the Geneva Conventions and Violations of the Laws or Customs of War, rape continues to be used as a weapon of war. In 2009 we learned of the brutal raping of 8,000 women in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Margot Wallstrom, the UN’s special representative on sexual violence in conflict, described the country as “the rape capital of the world” speaking of the violence she explained “if women continue to suffer sexual violence, it is not because the law is inadequate to protect them, but because it is inadequately enforced.”

In countries such as Saudi Arabia, women are not even allowed to drive, let alone vote. In Saudi Arabia and in places such as Chechnya, Afghanistan and Somalia women are routinely punished for not adhering to strict dress codes, and can be flogged in the street for showing their faces.

Seven UN member states have not signed the convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women; Iran, Nauru, Palau, Somalia, Sudan and Tonga. The United States, along with Niue and the Vatican City have not yet ratified it!

Sexual Assault & Domestic Violence

These stories are not freak occurrences, every day women face gender related abuse. I was shocked to learn that globally 60 million girls are sexually assaulted on their way to school each year. In the UK only 7% of rape cases end in conviction and only between 10-20% of rapes are thought to be reported. In the US one in four women can expect to experience domestic violence, and according to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, women experience about 4.8 million intimate partner-related physical assaults and rapes each year.

Decision Makers

Globally there is severe disparity between men and women in parliament, and women make up only 19% of the worlds parliament seats. As of 2011 there were only 17 female Senators in the US out of 100 and 76 women in Congress out of 435. In the UK there are 144 members of parliament out of 650. In a world where leaders such as Obama, Cameron, Sarkozy, Burlesconi, Putin, Gaddafi, Mubarak make headlines daily, we hear relatively little of Gillard, Rousseff, Patil and Fernández de Kirchner, some of the world’s 18 female heads of state. Is it perhaps because they make up such a small percentage of world power or is it because we underestimate the power of women in leadership positions?

The reason why I have emphasized the statistics in this article, is because they speak for themselves. Nevertheless they are easily ignored, but we cannot afford to ignore the reality they represent.

Call to Action

We have the tools to change the world, we can make a difference, we can even change the course of history. The time for further excuses, postponement, or procrastination, for hesitation and prevarication has long passed. Now is the time for courage and leadership. We must take concrete steps to empower women, achieve gender equality, equal legal rights and justice.

We must demand that all countries adhere to the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women and meet the Millennium Development Goals to eradicate extreme poverty, achieve universal primary education, improve maternal health and reduce child mortality, and combat HIV/AIDS.

We can, and we must embark upon a non-violent revolution. We cannot afford to be apathetic, for the sake of the women suffering at the hands of violence, persecution and injustice. For the sake of our daughters and grand daughters we cannot sit still or we will jeopardize their future.

I call on governments, academics, NGO’s, and people across the world to do what it takes to achieve gender equality.

I will be speaking tomorrow at 4.30pm at The Women of the World Festival, Southbank Centre, London

You can follow me on Twitter @BiancaJagger and join my foundation’s Facebook fan page at the Bianca Jagger Human Rights Foundation.

Follow Bianca Jagger on Twitter: www.twitter.com/BiancaJagger

Music of The Revolution: How Songs of Protest Have Rallied Demonstrators

From: Movements.org

Look up the original site and get several of the movies.

Music almost always plays a pivotal role in protest movements, with songs and chants unifying dissidents in their rallying cries. Unlike movements of decades past, however, protest music made popular during the recent revolution in Tunisia, Egypt, and beyond spread virally with the help YouTube and Facebook.

TUNISIA

Twenty-one-year-old Hamada Ben Amor, known as El Général—an underground rapper living in the town of Sfax south of Tunis—uploaded a song he had written called “Rais Le Bled” (“President, Your Country”) to Facebook on November 7. The rap called out then-president Zine El Abidine Ben Ali for the problems faced by average Tunisians trying to make a living, including food scarcity, a lack of freedom of speech, and unemployment with lyrics like: “Mr. President, your people are dying/People are eating rubbish/Look at what is happening/Miseries everywhere Mr. President/I talk with no fear/Although I know I will only get troubles/I see injustice everywhere.”

The Voice of Tunisia

The rap was picked up by local TV station Tunivision and Al-Jazeera and resonated with many Tunisians who quickly began sharing the song. Soon enough, the government blocked the musician’s Facebook page and cut off his mobile phone. Despite the attempt to make his music disappear, El Général’s song quickly became the anthem of the Jasmine Revolution.

El Général then recorded another song of protest call “Tounes Bladna” (“Tunisia Our Country”) on December 22. By that point, Ali’s regime had had enough with the musician. El Général was arrested by state security on January 6, taken to the Ministry of Interior, and interrogated for three days.

He tells The Guardian, “They kept asking me which political party I worked for. ‘Don’t you know it’s forbidden to sing songs like that?’ they said. But I just answered, ‘Why? I’m only telling the truth.’ I was in there for three days, but it felt like three years.” The public was outraged and began demanding his release. The pressure mounted on the government worked and he was soon released from detention.

Since Ben Ali left office on January 14, El Général’s tunes have continued to serve as a rallying cry for other demonstrators in the Middle East, and his work has proven to be popular among demonstrators in Bahrain.

EGYPT

Egyptian poet Ahmed Fouad Negm (“Uncle Ahmed”), a popular voice for the poor who has spent 18 of his 81 years in Egyptian prisons, wrote “The Donkey and the Foal,” a commentary about then-president Hosni Mubarak and his son Gamal. Musician Ramy Essam, who had taken to playing in Tahrir Square during the protest, set the poem to music and sang the song as Negm stood beside him.

Essam then penned the song “Leave,” inspired by the slogans and chants being shouted around Tahrir Square:

“We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! (x3)

Down, down Husni Mubarak! (x4)

The people demand: Bring down the regime! (x4)

He is going away. We are not going anywhere! (x4)

We are all united as one,

And what we ask for,

Is just one thing: Leave! Leave! Leave! (x4)”

The Truth Behind the Egyptian Revolution

Amir and Adel Eid from the Egyptian rock band Cairo-Kee gathered up other artists to record “Sout Al Horeya” (“The Voice of Freedom”), which quickly became another anthem for the revolution. The video for the song was shot entirely inside Tahrir Square during the revolution using a basic digital SLR camera.

“I went down to the streets vowing not to return, and wrote with my blood on every street.

Our voices reached those who could not hear them

And we broke through all barriers

Our weapon was our dreams

And tomorrow is looking as bright as it seems….”

Sout Al Horeya

LIBYA

Traditional songs have also played an important role in demonstrations. Libyans in the liberated eastern parts of the country forged bonds by singing the old national anthem while waving the tricolor flag from before Gaddafi came to power in 1969 as “a symbol of the reinvention of the Libyans.”

In this video, the massive crowd in Beghanzi sings the old anthem to share their pride in being liberated.

ARAB RAP DIASPORA

The Narcicyst, an Iraqi-born rapper living in Toronto, joined with other musicians from the Arabic rap diaspora in North America, such as Omar Offendum, Amir Sulaiman, and Canadian R&B singer Ayah, to record a track called “#Jan25 Egypt,” based off the popular hashtag used during the demonstrations in Egypt. In an Al Jazeera English interview, Omar said that it’s a “song of solidarity with the Egyptian people and [a way] to open it up [what’s happening in Egypt] to an audience in the United States.” The song starts:

“I heard ’em say

The revolution won’t be televised

Aljazeera proved ’em wrong

Twitter has him paralyzed

80 million strong

And ain’t no longer gonna be terrorized

Organized – Mobilized – Vocalized

On the side of TRUTH

Um il-Dunya’s living proof

That its a matter of time

before the chicken is home to roost”

Omar Offendum

LOOKING FOR MORE MUSIC?

Check out Mideast Tunes, a hub launched by Mideast Youth for the region’s underground and alternative music scenes. You can browse music by country or genre. The site has highlighted a number of other protest songs coming out of the region for its listeners (1, 2).

Abdulla Darrat, co-founder of the enoughgaddafi.com (Khalas) site run by a Libyan exiles (now found at http://feb17.info), put together a “mixtape” featuring hip-hop artists from the region. The mix, called “Mish B3eed,” or “Not Far,” features songs describing the conditions in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia, and Algeria. It can be downloaded here.

Durrat says, “[These musicians and emcees] very successfully put into words a lot of the sentiments that young people in the area are carrying with them, and they’re voicing really the struggle of…everyday people.”

Are any popular protest songs missing? Share them in the comments below!

How to Plan and Execute an Act of Electronic Civil Disobedience

From Infoshop News

In the midst of hacktivists using ECDs (similar to distributed denial of service attacks) to defend Wikileaks, it’s worth having a document that describes how such attacks are planned and executed. Such a zine has recently been released that is written in laypersons terms so expertise in computing or networking is certainly not needed to understand it. If you have the ability to browse the web and edit a Microsoft Word document, you’ve probably got what it takes to understand the ideas it presents.

The zine goes through everything from anonymously scoping out your target to distributing your ECD tools and call-out. It includes a guide on doing research and making online postings anonymously, legal risks you may encounter and analysis of the effectiveness of ECDs as opposed to other large protest tactics. It reviews three popular tools (the Greek ECD Tool, the Low Orbit Ion Cannon, and Slow Loris) and provides step-by-step instructions for configuring and packaging them. It also includes a short section on the history of the use of ECDs by social movements.

Download the zine for printing and online reading at:
http://zinelibrary.info

Students recreate the civil rights movement in Second Life

by Justin Olivetti

Americans celebrated Martin Luther King Jr. Day this past week to honor both the man and the civil rights movement that he supported. As part of that celebration, a team of doctoral students from Indiana University of Pennsylvania used Second Life to recreate key moments in the civil rights movement as a teaching tool.

Players who went through the simulation encountered critical junctures of the movement, including the Montgomery Bus Boycott, King Jr.’s beginnings at Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, the 1963 March on Washington, and the Mississippi Freedom School Movement. By experiencing it first-hand in a virtual world, players hopefully gained a perspective on the issues surrounding segregation, integration, equality, voting rights and civil disobedience of the era that are in danger of slipping into distant history.

As they moved through the simulation, players were able to take quizzes, look at photos and videos, and make personal choices relating to the movement, such as whether to protest or sit in the back of the bus.

While it looks as though the simulation is no longer available in the game, you can watch the two-minute overview of the project after the jump.

The Clicktivists – a new breed of protesters

By Ben Bryant London ES

As protests go, a lunchtime dance outside the Bank of England wouldn’t even register as an act of civil disobedience. And yet, for the dozens of people who attended last Friday’s Dance Against The Deficit to bump and grind to the bewilderment of City workers, it makes perfect sense.

Faces of protest: clockwise from top left, False Economy’s Clifford Singer, Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy, Milena Popova of Yes to Fairer Votes, Ellie Mae O’Hagan of UK Uncut, blogger Laurie Penny, Sean O’Halloran and Jessica Riches of UCL Occupation and David Babbs of 38 Degrees

Faces of protest: clockwise from top left, False Economy’s Clifford Singer, Sunny Hundal of Liberal Conspiracy, Milena Popova of Yes to Fairer Votes, Ellie Mae O’Hagan of UK Uncut, blogger Laurie Penny, Sean O’Halloran and Jessica Riches of UCL Occupation and David Babbs of 38 Degrees

It would be glib to describe this kind of playful protest as the new face of activism but the dance, which was organised by a group of bloggers and activists, posted on Facebook and publicised by interested people on Twitter, shows how campaigning has evolved. The way in which activists are exchanging ideas and mobilising has changed, thanks to social media, and it’s this, along with a surge in public dismay over Coalition cuts and broken promises, that is fuelling a resurgence in popular protest.

Activists haven’t always embraced the internet so readily. Critics of acts like signing up to an online petition or “liking” a cause on Facebook argue that they dissuade users from getting off their computers and on to the streets to protest.

This kind of flirtation with a cause even has a name — “clicktivism”, the sort of activism that’s perfectly suited to the process of skittering across the web from the Save Darfur Facebook page to a video of sneezing pandas on YouTube.

Organisations such as UK Uncut, however, are bucking this trend, successfully translating online campaigns into offline action. The latest clicktivists are smart, media-savvy, highly engaged with social media, accessible, usually only loosely organised, and well aware of the pitfalls of clicktivism. They use social media to enable a public sceptical of traditional party political routes to engage with the issues on their own terms.

UK Uncut
Who?
A loosely organised national network of anti-cuts activists who have risen to prominence for campaigns targeting Vodafone and Arcadia Group, which includes Topshop, Burton and Dorothy Perkins. The group has no official leader or hierarchy. Instead, says co-founder Chris Tobin, a 25-year-old drama teacher from Brent, its collaborative blog “allows people to co-ordinate their own actions”. Its 12 founders are students and professionals from their twenties to early forties, including teachers, a nurse and media professionals.

What do we want?
The group has focused all of its energies on corporate tax avoiders so far but is actually an anti-cuts movement, explains 23-year-old spokesperson Alex Wright, a charity worker from Tower Hamlets: “Our aim as a movement is to highlight that, actually, these are ideological cuts. It has nothing to do with necessity. Tax avoidance is just an issue of many, highlighting some of the ways where the Government could be reclaiming this money and not making the cuts.”
greatest success?

Pay Day, on December 18, saw nationwide protests that disrupted Arcadia Group and Vodafone businesses all over the UK. Demonstrators occupied Topshop, Bhs and other Arcadia businesses from Truro to Edinburgh, in some cases gluing themselves to the windows to prevent ejection. This action forced the closure of at least 13 stores.

Where’s the money from?
It requires very little funding, since UK Uncut uses tools that are freely available on the internet to unite its network of activists. “Twitter isn’t a gimmick in this,” says Tobin. “Twitter and Facebook allow for a realistic campaign that has a completely different structure to the sort of organisations that have defined protests.”

How many followers?
It has no formal membership and its supporters range in their degree of advocacy from sympathisers to demonstrators. This means its founders have no idea how many people are involved, although they have accumulated more than 13,000 followers on Twitter.

What’s the next move?
A nationwide day of mass action is planned for January 30, with smaller nationwide occupations and demonstrations taking place throughout this month.

38 Degrees
Who?
A Left-of-centre campaigning organisation with a team of three staff and a network of volunteers. It launched in May 2009 and is unique because its direction is driven almost entirely by its membership, who use social media and the internet to help decide on every aspect of running a campaign. “We have a staff team who are very focused on listening to what our members want, and exercising some judgment as well,” explains
29-year-old executive director David Babbs, who lives in Bethnal Green.

What do we want?
It has co-ordinated campaigns on a range of issues, from saving BBC 6 Music to protecting the NHS. At the moment their energies are focused on a newspaper campaign that portrays George Osborne as a pouting “Artful Dodger”, stating that he is not only skirting the issue of tax avoidance but dodging £1.6 million of tax himself.

Greatest success?
38 Degrees delivered a petition signed by 11,000 people to party leaders to call on them to urgently pass a Recall Law for MPs that would let voters oust them between elections. The Deputy Prime Minister, Nick Clegg, has since indicated that this will become a reality.

Where’s the money from?
Half of 38 Degrees’ funding is raised from membership donations. The other half is provided by benefactors and trusts.

How many followers?
38 Degrees claims to have a membership of about 300,000, whose levels of advocacy vary. Its campaigns tend to be based around online activism that requires supporters to sign petitions or email their MP rather than take direct action.

“We make change happen through people power,” says Babbs. “So in terms of what the staff can do without members our options are genuinely limited.”

What’s the next move?
£20,000 has been raised by members to display a round of Artful Dodger adverts on bus stops and billboards around the UK. The organisation is also currently engaged in several other campaigns.

False Economy
Who?
Conceived by a group of activists, campaigners and trade unionists, False Economy isn’t a campaigning organisation in itself but rather a platform for people to find out about how Coalition cuts are affecting the populace and what they can do about it.

“We’re very interested in what people do offline,” says campaign director Clifford Singer, 42, who lives in Hackney, “but False Economy itself is an online hub. It’s a way for people to get information about what’s going on, about local cuts in their area and the arguments against the Government’s economics, and to spread that using social media.”

Its success at uniting online activists has been assisted by the involvement of Liberal Conspiracy blogger and prolific tweeter Sunny Hundal, who has proven adept at connecting activists online and offline through events such as this month’s grassroots conference Netroots.

What do we want?
The site has three aims: to map the cuts and their effect on people, to provide a resource for campaigns and protesters from different organisations and to make a case against the Government’s view of how it would reduce the deficit.

Greatest success?
It is not due to launch until the first week of February and is still in the process of establishing the site.

Where’s the money from?
False Economy was set up with financial support from the TUC, Unison, the Chartered Society of Physiotherapy and the Fire Brigades Union, and has a staff of two working part-time. “We have very limited funds at the moment,” says Singer, who is a part-time web developer, and hopes to maintain the site through donations.

How many followers?
It’s currently reported to attract about 2,000 unique users a day.

What’s the next move?
The group’s energies are focused on their launch in the first week of February. It has also used Freedom of Information requests to conduct research into the impact of public sector cuts, which it plans to release at the same time.

National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts
Who?
A network of student and education worker activists not affiliated with the National Union of Students (NUS), the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) was founded at a conference of more than 150 campaigners at University College London in February last year. It was originally conceived in response to the NUS’s failure to represent students who wanted to campaign for free education, and organises protests and occupations opposing tuition fees and cuts in education funding.

Founder Michael Chessum, a 21-year-old student officer at University College London, explains: “We thought there were lots of little local campaigns which weren’t being catered for or supported by their students’ union or the NUS. We wanted to give them a national face and a national direction.”

What do we want?
The NCAFC ultimately wants to secure free education for students, and this is where its views differ from the NUS. Considered more radical than the NUS, the group has a record of supporting forms of (non-violent) direct action, such as university occupations, that the NUS is less willing to undertake.

Greatest success?
A march the NCAFC organised on December 9 last year saw tens of thousands of students descend on London to protest, causing disruption that included the painting of a giant “NO” on the grass in Parliament Square.

Where’s the money from?
By donation through its website.

How many followers?

The campaign against a rise in tuition fees was believed to have the support of hundreds of thousands across the UK, most of them students. Marches have seen tens of thousands of students take to the streets. “What’s important about the campaign is it’s still overwhelmingly a physical thing,” says Chessum, who lives in Haringey.

What’s the next move?
A mass demonstration is planned for January 29, where protesters will take to the streets of London and Manchester.

Bloody Sunday came to Belarus

From Nash Dom Civic Campaign

Nash Dom Civic Campaign members give their accounts
of what happened and is happening in the country now.
Women are among the most affected.

Russia in 1905.
India in 1930.
Hungary in 1956.
South Africa in 1960 and 1986.
Chechslovakia in 1968.
Poland in 1956 and 1970.
American South in 1960.
Northern Ireland in 1972.
Chile in 1973.
Palestine in 1988.
China in 1989.
Romania in 1989.
Lithuania in 1991.
Kosovo in 1998.

This sad list is incomplete, of course. What is sadder, it does not stop. December 19, 2010, added another line here. Bloody Sunday came to Belarus. The ruling regime threw away a mask they were putting on the last year, and had no qualms about a bloodbath. A peaceful manifestation of about 50,000 people was violently dispersed, more than 600 people are jailed. Hundreds of the people were injured, some of them may be dead. Nearly all alternative presidential candidates were beaten, some of them severely, and one of them is rumored to be dead.

Why was the manifestation? The citizens where determined to show their peaceful protest against stealing of another election campaign. All the demonstrators wanted was an explanation why the election process became so non-transparent and at the same time so tightly controlled by the ruling group. Instead of a legitimate and logical explanation, they were beaten by clubs, brass knuckles, and heavy police boots.

Several members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign were among the 50,000 who headed to the House of Government where the official Central Election Commission must be located. The people had a lot of questions to the chair of the Commission and the Prosecutor General. It was already late evening, but those officials had to be at their places during the final day of the election. Besides, that was probably the only possible way to hold those officials accountable, because any other peaceful ways tried by citizens and their leaders were efficiently blocked by the laws and decrees signed in no time by just one person, or simply by plain ignoring.

The citizens had a lot of grounds to late claims. All the local election commissions are headed by people completely dependent on the ruling group, and nothing can efficiently prevent forging the election results. Since about the year of 1998 the votes are counted almost privately by a limited number of people who know only too well that for the ‘necessary’ result they will get a small award, otherwise they will be severely punished. With the current election legislation in Belarus there is no way to learn the real preferences of the citizens. But even more, during this election campaign there were numerous violations of the current legislation and suspicious actions. Many members of the Nash Dom Civic Campaign know it firsthand because they were observers at some election precincts.

Many Belarusian citizens and democratic activists, including Nash Dom members, joined efforts in a nonviolent action which revealed the true situation in Belarus. Until recently, the ruling regime just snarled and hissed at people, they could not hold a dialogue themselves and they were doing their best to silence people. Now the regime enforcers are still breaking into houses and apartments, take people out in plain night, beat them and jail them.
Most of the presidential candidates are jailed, in spite of the fact that they are inviolable until December 29, the day of final vote count. One of the candidates and many demonstrators are plain missing, just like many political opponents of the current regime got missing in 1997-2001. We all hope that the situation is not the same as it was in Chile and Argentine in the 70s and 80s, but the similarities are too appalling.

Unfortunately, this was also experienced only too well by one of the Nash Dom members, Kristina Shatikova, a mother of two. When she and her friends were rounded up, enforcers beat them skillfully, taking into account that the victims were female. The enforcers were trying to hit abdomens and lower part of the body. When the young women were arrested, they had to stand this whole freezing night in police vans, without a possibility to use toilet. Even more, the enforcers took away hats, caps, scarves, and gloves. Many women were threatened to be drowned in toilet bowls. Because of the torturing conditions, many women lost consciousness. It all looked like a planned action to deprive the women of the right of being mothers again.

When after the freezing night Kristina Shatikova was taken to the Oktiabrski Police Department in Minsk, beatings continued. The enforcer Vitali Pozniak behaved as a real bandit. He was kicking Kristina in the corridor, strangled her in his room. He had no insignia on him, but apparently he was not rank-and-file. The tortures varied, and one of them were night interrogations. Even by the current legislation this is a violation. Besides, when Kristina signed the protocol and put a dash in the witnesses section, the protocol was taken away. It is very likely that the police will forge the protocol and write it again the way they like. In such cases the witnesses are usually the enforcers themselves. The signature of the interrogated is not a problem at all, the standard words ‘the interrogated refused to sign the protocol’ is more than welcome in the judicial system of Belarus.

This illegal legal system hurts not only their opponents. Any citizen can become a victim. When Kristina was released, she told us about a young woman who was apprehended just because she happened to be near. She was desperate because her baby was left alone at home, and begged to let her go. This amused the enforcers even more, and the softest name they gave her was ‘a dirty cow’. They spared her beating, but it would be a miracle if the woman is still able to breast-feed the baby after the physical and emotional stress.

The violations of the most basic human rights and international norm are going on right now, in this very moment. Enforcers break into offices of all noticeable social organizations and into private apartments of their activists throughout the country, and loot them calling this ‘a legal search’. They confiscate belongings and are especially greedy to get hold of computers. They cut telephone and Internet communication, hoping to isolate people and devour them one by one. The alternative candidates, their friends, simply people they know: anyone who might have their own opinion about the last show the authorities call ‘elections’ is an enemy to be oppressed, deprived of property and private life, injured, jailed, and even killed.

The regime targets families. Private apartments are raided violently, sometimes late at night, and children witness the searches. A three-year old boy of one of the alternative candidates was threatened to be put into a facility (both his parents are jailed after December 19), and only active position of the grandmother saved him some of childhood.
Now we see that the current authorities in Belarus do not care for the lives of Belarusians. They do not even consider that Belarusians are humans, depriving them of normal representatives and judicial system.

In many countries listed at the beginning the Bloody Sundays led to revolutions, and revolutions always cost lives. The war against Belarusians and Belarusian women in particular is already going on, and it costs lives of many babies who will not be born, many lives of women who are crippled spiritually and physically.
* * *
Recently Argentina jailed their former dictator Jorge Videla for life, though it took over 30 years to get hold of him. It may take Belarusians longer, but we keep our records, and the Nash Dom Civic Campaign makes their contribution.

Study: DDoS Often Used as Tool for Protests, Civil Disobedience

From The New New Internet

Security evangelist Sean-Paul Correll called the phenomenon “the future of cyber protests,” and a new report seems to substantiate his prediction of distributed denial of service attacks becoming a method frequently used by protesters and civil disobedients.

Image: Operation Payback

Image: Operation Payback

Historically associated with extortion, DDoS has morphed into an instrument used for various nonfinancial reasons, including political ones, researchers at Berkman Center for Internet and Society at Harvard noted in their report.

Attacks that recruit participants in so-called volunteer DDoS have become increasingly popular, with the most recent example involving Anonymous, a self-described Internet gathering, who used the method to attack websites of WikiLeaks opponents.

However, although Operation Payback succeeded in calling attention to activists’ political goals, it was “largely ineffective in disturbing the business operations of targeted firms,” the researchers said.

“It is worth noting that the Operation Payback attacks disabled promotional websites associated with the financial firms targeted, not their mission-critical payment processing systems, because those promotional sites are much less well-protected than the firms’ core operational systems,” the researchers wrote.

The report also highlighted a trend in cyber attacks against human-rights groups whose opponents take to the web to disrupt and disturb campaigners’ operations. Between August 2009 and September 2010, the researchers found evidence of 140 attacks against more than 280 different sites belonging to human-rights groups.

“These attacks do seem to be increasingly common,” Ethan Zuckerman, one of the authors of the report, told BBC News.

While some attacks were triggered by specific incidents such as elections, others had no obvious cause, he said.

The report found repeated attacks between countries beyond the most commonly cited examples of
Israel/Palestine, Russia/Georgia, and Russia/Estonia. Such examples include China/USA, Armenia/Azerbaijan, Malaysia/Indonesia, and Algeria/Egypt. There were also many reports of attacks between Muslim and European or U.S. actors, the researchers noted.

How safe are activists in India?

From OneWorld South Asia

The murder of environmentalist Amit Jethwa for campaigning against forest encroachment exposes the urgent need for legal redressal to protect the voices of whistle blowers in India, who are risking their lives for the cause of social equity and justice.

On 20 July 2010, forest campaigner Amit Jethva was shot dead at point blank range by two assailants on motorbikes as he was leaving Gujrat High Court following a meeting with his lawyer.

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

Environmental activist Amit Jethva was murdered after campaigning against illegal mining in a national park

In a country facing an acute environmental crisis as it rapidly industrialises, his assassination was no stray incident but one of a rising number of attacks on activists. The headline-grabbing decision to ban the British mining company Vedanta from opening a bauxite mine on tribal land in eastern India was only achieved after an unprecedented amount of national and international media attention.

Elsewhere decisions have not been so favourable. Recently approved plans for a new airport in Mumbai will destroy 170 hectares of critically important mangroves. Conservation groups say alternative sites were not properly considered and that their objections were given little consideration. But being ignored is perhaps better than the fate many environmental activists face in India today.

In January 2010, Satish Shetty, a whistle blower and anti-corruption campaigner, who brought to light land scams in West Indian state Maharashtra, was murdered, while Shanmughan Manjunath suffered the same fate after exposing petrol pumps that sold adulterated fuel. Activists say that in contrast to the image India portrays – of a nation that prioritises environmental issues – the reality is in fact very bleak.

‘Activists in India are constantly at risk. Stories of activists being killed are a moral setback to all of us. Ruffle the wrong person’s feathers and it could be you next,’ says Stalin D, project director at the environmental NGO Vanashakti. Ravi Rebbapragada, executive director of Samata, a tribal rights and environmental NGO, believes that as India continues its rapid industrialisation, things are likely to get worse, ‘as the stakes go higher the risk to the activist goes higher,’ he says.

Anti-mining activist killed

At the time of his death Amit was campaigning to protect against forest encroachment. He was heavily involved in the Gir National park, the only home of the Asiatic lion and a protected forest area in western India that covers more than 1,400 km sq. His efforts to expose illegal mining in the forest were rewarded last week with a special posthumous award. Before his death he had filed a lawsuit (Public Interest Litigation) against illegal limestone mining in the buffer zone around the National Park. His application had named a local MP Dinu Solanki from India’s Hindu Nationalist Party and the case was said to, ‘openly expose his link with illegal mining operations’.

Amit was well-known for standing up for environmental issues and had even taken on Bollywood actor Salmon Khan for shooting an endangered Blackbuck. As such he had many enemies in the government, according to his friend and environmental lawyer Manish Vaidya. His family and friends say he had been under threat ever since he started investigating illegal mining operations in and around Gir National Park.

‘A couple of years back, Dinu Solanki’s men physically assaulted Amit at a family wedding,’ recalls Alpa Amit Jethva, his widow, who says Amit had complained to the police after one incident but nothing happened. Dinu Solanki was unavailable for comment but a police investigation since Amit’s death found that he had ‘no role to play’. The police confirmed to the Ecologist that his nephew Shiva Solanki has been charged with conspiracy to assassinate Jethva and a second man with his murder.

Lack of support from police

Activists in India say support is often lacking from the police when they try and initiate proceedings against their attackers. In March 2010, while exposing illegal sand mining in the state of Maharastra, Sumaira Abdulali, a trustee of the Awaaz Foundation, an environmental NGO, was followed, threatened and physically attacked by mafia linked to sand dredging in the area. Sumaira and her team went out on a boat to photograph illegal sand mining in an ecologically sensitive creek, where they saw over fifty dredgers within a span of one kilometre. After they took the photographs and left, they were followed by thugs.

Uproar in Egypt over ElBaradei Death Fatwa

From asharq alawsat By Waleed Abdul Rahman

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei

Cairo, Asharq Al-Awsat – A fatwa issued in Egypt calling for the death of Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, former Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency [IAEA] and Egyptian political opposition figure, has stirred religious and political controversy across Egypt. Al-Azhar scholars have described this Fatwa as being “reckless” whilst supporters of ElBaredei – who is considering standing for the Egyptian presidential elections next year – have condemned this fatwa which was issued by Sheikh Mahmoud Amer, head of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate. This fatwa justified the murder of Dr. ElBaradei for “stirring civil disobedience against the regime of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, inciting riots and calling for full-scale civil disobedience.”

In a fatwa posted on the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya website, Sheikh Amer began by stating that “we, in Egypt, are a people that for the most part follow the religion of Islam and anybody reading ElBaradei’s statements can see that these call for civil disobedience and incite civil unrest against our Muslim ruler [President Hosni Mubarak].” The fatwa goes on to say that “regardless of the status of Egypt’s ruler in the eyes of some people, he is the ruler and so should be listened to and obeyed…therefore ElBaradei and others are not entitled to make such statements [calling for civil disobedience].” Sheikh Mahmoud Amer’s fatwa uses some of the prophet’s hadith as well as some of the teachings of Salafist clerics as a reference, with the fatwa calling on ElBaradei to “declare his repentance for what he has said…otherwise the ruler is permitted to imprison or kill him in order to prevent sedition.”

Asharq Al-Awsat spoke to the man responsible for the above fatwa, leader of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate, Sheikh Mahmoud Amer, who said that “what was published on the group’s website represents the Shariaa ruling of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association in Damanhur governorate members on ElBaradei’s position.”

In response to a question as to whether other branches of the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya group in Egypt support his fatwa, he confirmed that “no branch of the association is entitled to be the guardian of another, only the Egyptian government is permitted to do so. The Damanhur branch enjoys complete independence, and the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association headquarters in Cairo has no authority over this branch or any other branch of the organization, as stipulated by our rules and regulations.”

For his part, Dr. Abdul Mouti Bayoumi of the Islamic Research Academy of Al-Azhar University told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this fatwa is completely wrong, and fatwas that call for death should not be issued freely as this leads to killings.” Dr. Bayoumi, who is also the former Dean of the Faculty of Theology at Al-Azhar University added that “it is not usual for the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya to issue fatwas, so what has happened to make them change their position? Is it logical that when they do start issuing fatwas, this should be a fatwa calling for killing?

Dr. Bayoumi said that provoking the murder of Dr. ElBaredei would incite violence in Egyptian society, which is something that contradicts the teachings of Prophet Muhammad, something that the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya claim to be upholding. Dr. Bayoumi added that the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya fatwa is based upon a misunderstanding of Prophet Muhammad’s teachings.

Whilst Dr. Mohamed Rafat Othman, Professor of Comparative Jurisprudence at Al Azhar University, said that “this fatwa is reckless and not supported by any evidence as ElBaradei has not called on the Egyptian people to revolt against the ruling regime, but rather has called for a change in Egypt’s policies.”

Othman said that “[calling for] the shedding of blood is not so easy in Islam, anything that a man does in life is permissible unless expressly forbidden by Islamic Shariaa law.” He also said that most Muslim scholars agree that [calling for] bloodshed is forbidden in Islam.

He added “for people to ambush somebody and kill them is a terrible sin…differences in opinion should be settled by means of dialogue and fair-speaking, for as God Almighty said [in the Quran] “speak fair to the people” [Surat al-Baqara; Verse 83].

As for the political controversy stirred by this fatwa, ElBaradei’s National Coalition for Change said that it considered this fatwa to be extremely dangerous. A leading member of this organization, Ahmed Bahaa Shaaban, told Asharq Al-Awsat that “this fatwa is an indication that Egyptian, Arab, and Islamic society is on the verge of further deterioration, with the tolerant religion of Islam being used to intimidate figures and threaten their lives, rather than providing security, stability, and respect.”

Shaaban added that “this fatwa only serves the forces of corruption in Egypt, and intimidates any citizen who is calling for change.” Shaaban added that even during the era when governing regime’s clerics would issue fatwas in the interests of the government, such fatwas never went so far as to call for the death of the government’s political opponents.

Shaaban told Asharq Al-Awsat that “it is our duty now to take a strong stance to confront this new trend of darkness which backs the regime of corruption and uses religion to achieve worldly objectives.” He also warned Egyptian citizens of adhering to this fatwa and making an attempt on the life of Dr. ElBaradei, as this is something that happened previously when Egyptian writer and Nobel Laureate Naguib Mahfouz was attacked after a fatwa was issued against one of his novels.

The Egyptian Organization for Human Rights [EOHR] has called on Egypt’s general prosecutor to investigate the fatwa that justifies the killing of Dr. ElBaradei issued by the Ansar al-Sunnah al-Muhamadiya association.

The EOHR also called on Egypt’s general prosecutor to “strictly apply the law to those who issue religious edicts permitting the killing of people, which spreads fear among the citizens.” Whilst the head of EOHR described this fatwa as being “harmful to Islam.”

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